The first time I had heard of H.O.T. was when I began looking for websites about Korean groups and other bands like DBSK. Almost every website I came across put two names up on the highest echelon in the Korean music industry.
One was a man named Seo Taiji. The website touted that his popularity in Korea was on par to Michael Jackson’s phenomenon in U.S. when “Thriller” hit the scene. The other name was H.O.T., which stood for “High-Five of Teenagers.” Now, if you think the name was lame, the picture I saw of them in anime hair and metallic costumes gave the same impression. My initial thought was that H.O.T was just as manufactured as Super Junior appeared to be. So, I passed on both of them.
*disclaimer: If you hadn’t read the intro, the following is a personal memoir about my 13 years of exploring Korean and Japanese music.
As I continued to get deeper and deeper into Korean music and their culture. One of the first things I learned was how strict they were about broadcasting songs they deemed unsuited for public consumption. If a song was too materialistic, or promoted an unhealthy lifestyle, it wouldn’t be allowed to broadcast on the major stations.
Deep down, I think I respected that, considering how much I blame the entertainment industry for how immoral and backwards my own generation had become here in the states. However, as I’d eventually grow as an artist, I confess, I do think there is some corruption when it comes to such practice. Meaning, if you wanted, you could very well sway the deciding members on what should be deemed suitable or unsuitable. But I suppose that’s for another essay.
I also loved how in South Korea, they have dance shows and variety programs where the top celebrities come together and just straight up dance it out or to promote their current singles. At the time, some of the most popular shows were “X-Man,” “Love Letter,” and “Golden Star Bell”. Some of the regulars were famous names like Lee Minwoo, Jang Woo Hyuk, Tony An, and of course Yunho and Micky representing DBSK. Here, you’ll see Yunho dancing with Jang Woo Hyuk in the middle.
Now then…allow me take a moment to introduce you to two names here. Jang Woo Hyuk and Tony An. It took me a while to pronounce Jang Woo Hyuk properly. I believe it’s supposed to sound like, John Woo Yuh. Forgive me if I botched that.
It was just by chance that I had downloaded some of their music the month before I saw them on these variety shows. And dude…their music was amazing. It added a bit of variety to my k-pop tastes. DBSK and Super Junior handled the boy-band sound. Se7en gave me a solo Justin Timberlake vibe with his hits like “Passion” and “Crazy”.
But Jang Woo Hyuk and Tony An were something different altogether.
Jang Woo Hyuk was an amazing dancer. He was featured in numerous compilation videos as one of Korea’s premier pop-and-lockers. And as a solo artist, he’s a Bonafide rapper whose voice, I really can’t compare to anyone else. I listened to his song, “Flip Reverse” so many times that I think it was the first Korean song in which I memorized all of the lyrics.
I rapped it for my older brother when he came to visit. I think he was impressed. Not to mention, it was really remarkable how much hip hop had an influence on other countries around the world. It’s like everyone took a piece of it and modified the art to fit their own styles. But still…their own style. I think there’s a difference between being influenced by a culture and straight up swagger jacking. Some Korean artists are guilty of this. But I don’t believe Jang Woo Hyuk’s one of them.
And when it came to Tony An…the first song I heard of his was “Yutzpracachia’s Love”. Odd sounding title, I know. But like I said. It gave my palate some much needed variety. Tony’s song had a more mature R&B vibe to it that wasn’t overpowering or aggressive. Some nights after working the closing shift as a delivery driver, Tony An’s songs were just what I needed to unwind and relax.
But more than that…Tony An could rap and compose his own songs. Like Jang Woo Hyuk, Tony’s voice was unique. Not what you’d expect to hear from a soloist. It’s hard to explain. One of my top five favorite Korean songs of all time, was performed by Tony An. In fact, I found that a lot of my favorite “timeless” songs have managed to blend classical music from Mozart, Brahm or Beethoven in with a modern sound.
Tony An – “Love is Beautiful When You Can’t Have it”
Now, the funny thing about Jang Woo Hyuk and Tony An is they have a lot more in common than their unique abilities as solo artists. Remember when I said that the mark of a legendary group is one in which all the members could excel on their own if they went solo? Well…turns out Jang Woo Hyuk and Tony An were once part of the same group. And that group was called H.O.T. Yep, the same H.O.T, I passed on early in this chapter.
More than that…But just like in the states where we have end of the year musical award shows like the Grammys or the VMAs, they have the same of their own brand in Korea. In this next video, you’ll see groups like CSJH, Super Junior and DBSK holding it down in which they sing a medley of songs. One of which, caught my attention the first time I heard it. For the life of me, I’ve been trying to find out the original artist who sings the song @2:16. It’s being performed by DBSK…But this performance, it’s a tribute to the original artist. The original artist was none other than H.O.T.
The ORIGINAL “IYAH!”
Straight up, that’s Jang Woo Hyuk rapping at 00:54 seconds in and Tony An at 1:08.
Now, ladies and gentlemen…I cannot begin to tell you how profound the effect H.O.T had on me. I was 19-years-old. DBSK was the group that got me hooked in to k-pop. But H.O.T. will always be the greatest.
Now there was once a certain senator who was known to frequent clubs and popular spots in Uptown Toronto. His name was Jared J. Chrysler, a despicable bully who had a penchant for strong-arming his proposals through city hall.
Sen. Chrysler was not a good man. Not a good man at all.
As it was, I knew Sen. Chrysler before I saw him. He was as corrupt as they come and thought himself untouchable. His dossier came replete with sexual assaults, everything from rape, torture, and murder. He was once caught on camera literally stripping the clothes off of a reporter in an elevator while he was high on coke.
Two years ago, his name dominated headlines after he declared in Parliament that women had no place in politics. He never apologized. Never chalked it up to a gaffe or a slip of the tongue. Instead, Chrysler had the gumption to stand by his words. And in spite of widespread protests, solidarity from the academia damn-near screaming for his resignation, this unsavory fellow managed to stay in office.
On top of all that, Chrysler had dealings with the Bratva. He aided in human trafficking and had the nerve to call for stricter immigration laws when one of his mistresses threatened to go public. Of course, this mistress hasn’t been seen for some time. Rumor has it she was pregnant with his child and as a result, her body was stuffed in a barrel down in the basement. Everyone knew he dabbled in narcotics and every so often, he’d had to get rid of his limos because no matter what they did they couldn’t get the stench of marijuana out of the seats.
That his execution didn’t come sooner, I think, emboldened his god-like complex. At the same time, it made him an easier target for those who weren’t bound by silly things like laws or ethics.
I think that’s why they chose me. “The first kill is always the hardest,” they say. But honestly, there was no fear. No trepidation. I wasn’t reluctant nor did I hesitate or have any second thoughts. I didn’t feel anything…other than the smooth friction of my knife sliding across his neck. I killed the man. But the ladies killed his legacy.
That’s the way we worked. A death shrouded in mystery would only inflate his infamy. We couldn’t have that. So his hotel room was staged to look like a break in. His business partner, just as corrupt as he, was our patsy. There were recordings of the partner hiring a hitman years ago. The coward called it off but we still had the tapes. Damning evidence, really.
You have to understand, I was never a full-fledged member of the Society. I wanted to be, more than anything. These ladies, these women. They’re extraordinary. Every single one of them has this overpowering presence by which you can’t help but wonder if they came fresh from leading entire legions on the battlefield. Perhaps by becoming one of them, I thought I could soak in but an ounce of their charisma, their strength.
I’m sorry. I suppose even now, I find it difficult to denigrate them. They trained me. They believed in me. But their price was too heavy. It was a price I couldn’t pay.
In New York City some years ago, I was but a budding flower, having just graduated from Elysium with a 4.0 grade average and an avid interest in finance. Having grown up in the halls of Papa’s corporate offices, I was exposed to the high stakes of million dollar hedge fund investments. Despite all that, I was groomed to be a classical composer. That’s the path my parents chose for me.
My mother and our nannies came from Surrey, hence the accent I inherited. I began playing the piano when I was about five or six, and to date, I’ve mastered all of Chopin’s compositions. However, Erik Satie was my idol. It’s all about the timing in his works and the one thing I appreciated the most was the risk he took by trying something new and, dare I say, awkward. “Gymnopedie” is my favorite. I must have rehearsed it a thousand times. Even in complete silence, I hear it in my head.
To much is given, much is expected. That is, unless you have six big brothers and three older sisters, all more outgoing and impressive than yourself. It goes without saying, my own candle paled in comparison.
They dominated everything. Dinner conversations. Galas. Parties and pageants. At some point, I suppose I just got lost somewhere in the back and I didn’t mind. I had no talent for oratory and the moment all eyes were on me, I’d freeze up with the most terrifying heart palpitations.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my family. My brothers were so cool. Strong and handsome. And my sisters…Well, I suppose it’s a bit ironic now that I think about it. Clarice, Emily, and Victoria. My heart weeps even as I say this, but every time I was in the same room with them, I was afraid. They picked on me for being so short and small. I had bad asthma and they’d mock me relentlessly for the wheezing, the “overdramatic” desperation I’d exhibit to find my inhaler.
Papa made them take me everywhere and I could tell how much they resented it. It’s a horrid feeling, to have so much in common with expensive luggage that’s been passed down through generations. It’s because of Papa that they included me but I understood why. He didn’t want me to feel alone. Papa was always looking out for me. He was perhaps the one ray of light that kept me warm in an otherwise cold and abysmal childhood.
It was because of Papa that I had the strength to smile. When I was little, I used to stare at him like he was a Greek painting. The hope that most people have towards Christ is how I felt about him. Papa came to every one of my recitals. When everyone clapped and congratulated me, words couldn’t quite express how elated my father was. He’d cry. Such emotion. I felt the love. I didn’t have to wonder with him. I simply knew how much he loved me by how open he was about showing his affections. It was to his arms that I’d run. It was within his coat that I found salvation.
Felix Domina Vandelay II. That was his name, a titan on Wall Street with investments around the world. We were decedents of King Wilhelm Vandelay of Godland who surrendered the throne to the Swedish Empire. Our family was paid handsomely for throne and has since, dominated the shipping industry back before the English stole New York from the Dutch.
My father revered history and I took after him. My siblings didn’t seem to care one way or the other, but I did. Money was something everyone had, more or less, but our heritage, our pedigree, to come from royal blood was something my father regarded with pride. He installed our family crest in the corporate emblem. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when he took me to see it. Just me. No one else wanted to come.
And that’s how it went. The Vandelay name became synonymous with both opulence and, surprisingly enough, generosity. A lot of what I know about capitalism and economy came from what my father taught me. He’d let me sit in on the big important meetings, trusting with good measure that I’d behave and simply observe. And I did. It was interesting, actually. I enjoyed listening to them talk, more than I did watching cartoons or coloring in books. The tension, the frayed nerves, the adrenaline of risking so much on a public stock or new business, as CEO, Papa was the mediator to temper all tempers.
One time, Papa introduced me to the president of an airline company. It was just a joke, but Papa said I was his only daughter. I know this sounds bad but I fantasized about being his only child. I imagined a world without brothers or sisters or even my mother. Just Papa and me. I would have been so happy. It would have been the perfect world. But as it was, my brothers and sisters existed. In particular, Clarice, the eldest sister, born six years before myself.
Clarice was in a lot of ways the ring leader of the many cliques that tormented me from boarding school to boarding school. She could blame it on her youth, sure. But I never understood it. I heard stories about bullies being jealous of their targets or wanting something their victims had. But Clarice was taller, popular, drop-dead gorgeous and intelligent enough to know when to acquiesce. She never physically abused me. Just stole or broke everything that belonged exclusively to me. She called my recitals boring and sometimes, I could hear her laughing from the balconies as I played.
When the Society approached me, it was during a very dark chapter in my life. And yes, I blamed Clarice for it. My music teacher of eight years had just lost his wife to leukemia. I was his favorite pupil. I wanted to be there for him, to commiserate with him, to let him know that he wasn’t alone. But my family had a tradition of taking the yacht across the Mediterranean every Easter. I begged my mother to let me stay behind and support him but Clarice…She put it in my mother’s head that my teacher fancied me beyond what was appropriate.
We had just ported in Barcelona when I learned that my teacher committed suicide by plummeting from his twenty-fifth floor apartment. I was fifteen-years-old.
I was racked with grief. Even my father couldn’t console me. And he tried desperately. I wasn’t eating. I refused to attend school. And one afternoon, I returned home to find my bedroom nearly stacked to ceiling with rows of my favorite flowers, the white hydrangeas. It was classic of my father to go to such lengths. It was out of respect for him that I begrudgingly return to school.
By then, there was something different about me. Everyone could see it and finally, they all left me alone. I no longer smiled. I lost the ability to laugh or giggle. I stopped coming to Papa’s offices, and every time I entered a room where I knew Clarice was present, I’d keep my gaze to the floor.
I really hated that bitch. When I cried alone, it wasn’t because I was sad. It was the growing pain of holding back the rage in my heart. Every time I’d hear her laugh, or cheer, or so much as clear her wretched throat, I’d be so stricken by this incredible urge to stab her with the sharpest thing I could find. It was really bad and I knew something was wrong with me. But who could I tell? Who would possibly understand?
Three weeks after my maestro’s passing, I found myself sitting alone in an herbal teashop down in the Village. It rained that evening with a constant patter that calmed the disquieting notions. I’d hone in an out of the constellation of raindrops on the window. Red and yellow lights blurred in straight lines that zipped up and down the wet street.
Two older men approached and offered to buy me a drink. They appeared college students, and I knew they meant well, but I dismissed both.
Then, she sat down. A velvety black coat that still held beads from the rain. Long dark hair. Dazzling blue eyes with the elegance of a former ballerina, or a debutant like myself. Without saying anything, she just smiled and I was spellbound. She extended a napkin to wipe my tears. I still remember my mascara bleeding into the soft white cloth.
“May I help you?” I asked.
She sighed and looked around once more before settling on me.
“Your guilt is unwarranted. You are trapped, my dear. Like a bird, a caged canary. I am here to set you free.”
It was unreal. Everything I needed to hear came from those few words. She followed up with nothing else, but abruptly scooted her chair out and grazed past my shoulder and made her way to the exit. I exhaled, not realizing I had been holding my breath.
“Are you coming?”
I turned around. She was waiting for me, her and three others, all wearing the same dark velvety coat but with different styles of shoes and earrings. There was a motorcade of two black luxury SUVs parked on the curb behind them.
I didn’t get up at once. It was absurd and I think she saw it in my gaze.
“I can only unlock the cage. It’s up to you to spread your wings and fly.” She said.
“Who are you?” I asked in a shaky whisper.
“I’m Breanne. That’s Scarlett. She’s Mandee. And we call this one the Andalusian.”
Breanne, Scarlett, Mandee, and the Andalusian. These were the first Swords of St. Catherine I had the pleasure to meet. And if all of Swords were as impressive as they, with all due respect, there isn’t a force on earth powerful enough to match wits.
Officially, I ran away from New York City that night. Sadly, no one noticed. Not even Papa.
By early November of 2005…the novelty of Japanese rock music was wearing off. I still enjoyed it. But the waves that once washed over me…it’s like I had gotten used to the temperature and now found the waters lukewarm.
*disclaimer: If you hadn’t read the intro, the following is a personal memoir about my 13 years of exploring Korean and Japanese music.
In South Korea, you can tell the singers and groups pride themselves on their ability to dance. The following was one of the first videos I downloaded in which, the most popular singers of the day got together for a Christmas special to dance it out. You’ll find Se7en at 1:17 in. Followed by Rain…and then Minwoo of Shinhwa, then the guy who I’d come to call the best.
A popular style of dance at the time was an innovative form of pop-and-locking as well as the wave. Se7en was an awesome freestyle dancer. I learned that his main competition was another solo artist named Bi or Rain, who everyone was calling the Korean Usher. But the man who I definitely considered the best by a landslide when it comes to dancing…is U-Know.
It was the middle of December of 2005 when I saw this exact video:
lol, now aside from the “Ah’s” and “Oh’s” you may have noticed a dancer doing some amazing things. The waves are so simple yet complex at the same time. In order to do them well, you have to have good body control. Something, I felt I was capable of. His name is U-Know, or Yunho…And mind you…even though I was watching it in December of 2005, that video was from 2004. Surely there had to be more.
I’d come to find out Yunho was the leader of a Korean Boyband called DBSK and dude…Discovering DBSK was an early Christmas present to myself. When I say K-pop got me through college. I mean it.
That December, I was hoping to go home and spend Christmas with family. But from delivering pizzas, I caught a flat tire and couldn’t afford to come home. For two weeks, I was alone for the first time for the first time in my life. I’ve felt loneliness in the sense of being surrounded but not connecting with anyone. But the legit physical loneliness, I wasn’t quite used to at the time. Growing up, I always had brothers or some company present. Being alone for Christmas my first year away from home was abysmal. The only glimmer of happiness that got me through the holidays was DBSK. Like uncovering a buried treasure map, sparking a sense of adventure to see where it leads.
To understand how culturally significant DBSK was, I have to tell you a little bit about their history. All of which, I learned gradually throughout 2006. To put it in perspective, its sort of like how Jive Records was the label for the Backstreet Boys. Then came Nsync and Britney Spears. They were all under the same label at one point and dominated the American pop scene I’d say from 1998-2002ish.
In South Korea, the most prominent music agency is called SM Entertainment. In the thirteen years I’ve been listening to Kpop, SM may have had some close competition with other labels in which there was the big three, such JYP, YG, and it used to be DSP Media (home to Sechskies and SS501). But SM Entertainment has always remained at the top.
Very similar to how the Backstreet Boys were put together, with a benefactor picking out five talented youths and molding them to be superstars, South Korea’s entertainment agencies work the same way…except ten times tougher, with more rules, discipline, and longer years of training. That’s how they start out, as trainees to the agency and it takes years before they debut. Sometimes, they don’t.
DBSK also known as TVXQ or Dong Bang Shin Ki, consisted of Jaejoong, Micky Yoochun, Xiah Junsu, Max Changmin, and Yunho. All of them were hand-picked and groomed by SM Entertainment to sing, dance, take the lead and dominate. Just like their predecessors, which I’ll get into later.
But whatever, right? Bunch of talk, right? So what if ya boy Yunho can dance. I thought this was about music? How good is DBSK?
The first music video I saw of DBSK as a group was “Rising Sun.” And dude…I’m telling this group was the complete package.
II. The J-Rock Phase: Miyavi, Gackt & more L’Arc En Ciel
J-Rock stands for Japanese Rock.
By Spring Break of 2005, during my senior year of high school, I learned that I was accepted into a film school in Tampa, Florida. Knowing my future was secure was a relief. There wasn’t a lot of angst or trepidation in my heart at the time. Just full of hope and an eagerness to leave the nest. Every day since, I woke up, fully aware that it was another day to say goodbye to Georgia and the friends I had come to depend on.
*disclaimer: If you hadn’t read the intro, the following is a personal memoir about my 13 year journey of exploring Korean and Japanese music.
Having already been introduced to L’Arc en Ciel’s “Ready Steady Go” video…I was curious. What else they got? I learned that their genre was called “j-rock” so I searched for that on Limewire.
Apparently in 2004, early 2005, the biggest names in J-Rock were indeed L’Arc-en-Ciel…as well as a Japanese rock vocalist named Gackt. And man…hahahaha! Not gonna lie, I’m about to reveal some embarrassing stuff in talking about these guys.
So, mind you, from 5th grade to 12th, I was raised in Augusta, Georgia…which is considered a more country, gritty version of Atlanta. Meaning, everything you’ve heard regarding the stereotypes of blacks and whites had some truth to them in this city. That’s not to slight Augusta…because the thing is, the people know how they are and they don’t see it as a bad thing. Yes, there’s racism and a somewhat semblance of unspoken segregation, but people seemed cool with that. Most teens tended to stick to their own…
Had I been born and spent my whole life in Augusta, I probably would’ve fallen into a stereotype as well. But my parents were military. I moved around and attended multiple elementary schools ranging from south Florida to a place deep in the heart of Texas called Fort Hood. When you’ve moved around as much as I have, you know the world is much bigger. That America is made up of so many cultures.
And when you’re attending school on a military base, you’re afforded the luxury of just being yourself and making friends, because all the other kids are just like you. They’ve all moved around through their parent’s military transfer. So they understand and are more likely to accept you the way you are. But once you leave the base and start going to school with the civilian folk…yeah. You’ll find how different you are. And I think on a subconscious level, the natives don’t take too kindly to some new kid coming in and messing up the status quo.
My point in mentioning this, is that for years of being more or less stuck in Augusta, Georgia…I wasn’t exposed to a lot of diversity when it comes to the cultures. So when I discovered Gackt and L’Arc-en-Ciel…it was somewhat of a shock that had me questioning my own sexuality.
Remember, this was early 2005, a very conservative Christian time in the country. Lady Gaga wouldn’t blow up till late 2008-ish. And you see, in Japan they embrace this thing called “Visual Key”. Plainly put, it’s straight up androgyny, a style where men make themselves appear like women. They wear feminine makeup, eye-lashes and longer hair where it becomes difficult to discern whether they are male or female.
L’Arc-en-Ciel’s lead singer was notorious for this. Even without the make up, Hide looks like a girl. And just to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, I’d eventually ask my first roommates in Tampa to rate his appearance in “Blurry Eyes” on a one-to-ten scale. And my roommate without hesitation said… “I’d hit that.” As you can imagine, I laughed for some time. Not just at the humor in it, but the realization that it wasn’t just me. I’m not gay and I don’t think I should feel bad if I’m fooled by a person’s appearance.
I. Korean Music – The Beauty of Understanding Nothing
Why do you listen to Korean music if you don’t understand it?
The short answer: Because it’s better than understanding English lyrics and intensely disliking the message.
By 2004, I was fed up with mainstream American music. I was 17-years-old living in Augusta, Georgia with a military moved-around background. Even back then, before Google was big, I began to theorize how the entertainment industry used mediums like music, film, and television to promote a message, to promote a lifestyle.
Celebrities and what their producers put out…they’re the ones who determined what’s cool, what’s acceptable and taboo. I remember walking through the halls of high school every year, and every year it was something new that everyone was doing, everyone was conforming to. They said stupid stuff like, “I hear that” all the freaking time. Slang like “Shawty” and “trifling”…
As an adult, I have more of a “whatever” attitude. But back then, the lack of diversity was abysmal. The stereotypes were real and I never fit in with any trope or clique unless I pretended. I resented that.
Because the thing is…if you saw me in real life, you’d have never guessed that my favorite group growing up was the Backstreet Boys. By the time I was 15, I was over six feet tall, 250lbs, black, talked like a white boy but I’m not gay. I used to dream about being in a boyband. I could sing really well and danced like a son-of-a-gun. So much so that I literally dislocated my knee while popping and locking.
Also, it should be noted that my parents didn’t exactly expose me and my brothers to a wide variety of culture. I wouldn’t discover Queen until I was 23. I barely knew about groups like the Rolling Stone, the Who or Jimi Hendrix. Hell, I didn’t even know that much about the most celebrated black artists aside from the ones who were fortunate enough to have TV mini-series based on their careers.
I only listened to whatever was played on the bus or on my parent’s car radio, which was mainly pop and soft rock (90s hits). I never thought to myself, “I wonder what else is out there?” It was always just by chance that I came across something new.
By 2004, following the end of the boyband era and dealing with a whole host of internal teenage rage issues, I started listening to metal. I discovered bands like Slipknot and System of a Down and played them out for most of the year. I remember my driving my brothers in the car with me while blasting Slipknot’s “Surfacing” and they’d back down in their seats to avoid being seen. Haha! Those were good times.
However…I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve learned that I couldn’t just jam out to adrenaline pumping groove metal all the time. To me, metal was perfect for my mood and street racing. But I don’t get amped up, looking like I’m ready to rip into someone’s neck. Something about metal just calms me down. I didn’t notice until a friend pointed it out, joking that I was some kind of sociopath.
The best way to explain it…they’re screaming so I don’t have to. Think about it. If you’re super pissed off with no one to talk to or understand… simply being around someone who’s 10x angrier, it brings you down a notch. Well, it brought me down a notch. It’s like, “What do I got to be angry about? This guy’s fuckin’ furious!”
But that said, I’m not an angry person. I have my moments, sure. But it’s not like I roll out of bed full of rage. Blue skies. A cool breeze. The freedom from prying eyes and obligations…and I’m happy. In times like this, I’d like to hear music that’s just as uplifting. Which, brings me back to my original problem.
The pop music of 2004-2005 had some horrible messages, in my opinion. I never care about materialistic superficial things like cash, clothes, cars, poppin’ bottles or dropping it like it’s hot. I’m not a club-banger. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. And oddly enough…I didn’t care that much about sex. I liked women, but the idea of being with one just to get laid…this desire wasn’t strong in me at the time.
I know that’s weird. Pretty much, I’m lame in the eyes of young people who want to do things that’s “in.” Even back then, I liked to read, write, and just go…anywhere in my car. My pleasure came from production. Being tasked, trusted with a job, realizing that everyone depended on my output and simply making it happen. I liked to help my friends, comfort them. Make them laugh.
Plainly put…there wasn’t any popular music, hip hop, or R&B that I could relate to. It’s kind of like the argument some marginalized groups in the U.S. have about TV shows. For a man like me, there was/is no representation.
Not sure how I adapted this attitude, but ever since I was a kid I always had this innate, rebellious drive where…If I feel like you have no place in this world, pick your chin up and build your own place in this world. It was the same when I’d eventually go to college. They said, “you have to play the game to win it.” But every game I want to win has been dominated with high scores locked in place and guarded by ridiculous high walls. Do I really want to spend my life trying to climb over all that? Or would I rather venture into uncharted territory and build my own kingdom from scratch? So off, I went…
By January of 2005… I was 18-years-old and just dumped by the first girlfriend I ever had. So yeah, the holidays saw me pretty much playing out “Wait and Bleed” and some of Linkin Park’s greatest hits. I was so thirsty for something different that I even took to listening to the soundtrack of video games like “Need for Speed Underground” and “Smackdown vs Raw”.
Then one day, I was messing around with this anime on-demand network and I saw two music videos that were available for viewing. One was L’Arc En Ciel’s “Ready Steady Go,” and the other was O-Zone’s “Blue”. They were Japanese music videos. The first foreign music video I ever saw was “Ready Steady Go.”
The K-Pop Chronicles – A 13 Year Love Affair By Rock Kitaro
When I was in college, everyone told me that my love for Korean pop music was just a phase and that it would pass. Thirteen years is a long time to simply call it a phase.
Ever since 2005 I’ve been listening to popular music from the countries of Japan and South Korea. This was back before everyone else heard of “Gangnam Style.” Back before BTS took the Billboards. Back before Twitter and Instagram determined one’s prestige.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve watched the rise of Big Bang since they were still trainees. I rocked out to Dir En Gray. Witnessed the fall of DBSK when they were near untouchable. I went back and explored the history of legendary groups like Seo Taiji, H.O.T, NRG, Turbo, and stumbled upon gems like Clazziquai, Epik High, Drunken Tiger, and Dragon Ash.
But…as you can imagine…we’re talking about a span of thirteen years. The music has changed. I’ve grown up.
Since this journey of mine has come to an end, I thought I’d take a moment and tell you my story. In the upcoming memoirs, you will see me as an impressionable college freshmen who lived out his twenties dishing on some of the best kpop and jrock ever produced. It’s been an honor, really. You’re going to see what real diversity looks like. Hint: it’s not about race, it’s about taste. Back when the charts weren’t saturated with artists who look the same, all producing the same thing.
That being said…fair warning. You might read some things that strike a nerve if you’re a hardcore fan of certain groups. Mind you, this is just one man’s opinion, the perspective of one who’s been watching the scene since 2005. So if you just discovered kpop in 2016 and get mad talking about how so and so is the greatest when you haven’t even heard of H.O.T or Seo Taiji…yeah, you’re in for a bad time. This is my journey. My discovery of musical groups and the evolutionary effects they had on my life. Sit back and let me show you what I saw…starting in the middle of 2004.
Here’s a taste with a music video I edited in 2013, compiling some of the most impressive kpop dances I’ve ever seen.
Dance Appearances in Order – Song “Jiggy Get Down” by the Untouchables
1. :10 – Yunho of DBSK
2. :37 – Xiah of DBSK
3. :52 – Hyunseung, formerly of BEAST
4. 1:02 – Kikwang (AJ) of BEAST
5. 1:12 – Rain (Bi)
6. 1:31 – 2pm
7. 1:50 – 2NE1
8. 2:10 – Untouchables
9. 2:30 – Taeyang
10. 2:50 – DBSK
11. 3:09 – Big Bang
12. 4:08 – Block B
13. 4:17 – BEAST
14. 4:27 – Big Bang
Elliot Chan – The Network Executive (Short Story) By Rock Kitaro
Training to become a Paramour was about what one expect from any covert Special Forces operation. Except, we learned Tai Chi and a form of kung fu called Wushu. Also, the training didn’t take place over some eight-week boot camp period, but over the course of three years by which, you have to maintain the appearance of an everyday civilian by progressing in your respective fields. For me, that was in the TV industry. I got an entry job at MBC straight out of college and began working my way up as a production assistant.
The Paramours had posts all over the world. However, our headquarters was in this big country house in the English county of Derbyshire, right along the Derwent River, not far from the Chatsworth Estate. Its official title was the Leigh Estate. But the Paramours called it, Hollow Rock.
Many of the actual facilities were underground and shielded from aerial coverage, such as the firing range, the armory, and it’s inventory of the most badass vehicles I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw the place, it was breathtaking, the beauty of its green luscious splendor. It was vast, remote, and serene with singing birds and the trickle of creeks. Everything had this quaint, old British feel to it like a step back in time. Peaceful and soothing. It was just what I needed to accelerate the healing process…by which I was able to move on from the murder of my adoptive parents.
I reconnected with “Jake” at Hollow Rock. His real name was Col. Jacob Buchanan, having served in the Gulf War and conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. His story was a sad story. I mean…damn. But I’ll let him tell you himself. Jake became my closest friend and confidant. I told him what happened to Marvin and Sharon and he commiserated with me.
I remember one of my first conversations with him, after I went through the inaugural training sessions and my peers saw that there was more to me than meets the eye. We were walking along the stone bridge over the clear stream of the Derwent when I asked him something that’s been on my mind since I joined.
“Here’s my problem with the Paramours. It’s sort of like the superhero in a comic book. They foil the evil plan but they don’t kill, so the villains keep coming back. I don’t get that. It’s illogical. You said the Paramours don’t kill. To know that this secret society exists but no one’s doing anything to make them public? We don’t even turn them into the authorities, so they just keep on killin’ and ruinin’ innocent lives. Does no one feel guilty about all that?”
Jake, with his cold blue eyes and crew cut, stared out over the river.
“Elliot, do you know what a Paramour is? By definition, do you know what a paramour is?”
A question with a question. Friggin love those.
“It’s like a person’s who’s loved the most.” I answered.
“It’s an illicit lover, a secret lover to a married person. In that sense, I think Lord Byron named us precisely when he founded the brotherhood. Granted, not all of us are married or have ever been married, the key word her is love. You never met your mom. Do you love her?”
His questions were getting annoying.
“I don’t know. I guess.”
He scoffed, shaking his head at me like the rookie I was.
“It’s like this, Ellie. When you’re here, we train you, we give you the tools and trust you to assist your brothers out in the field. If you kill, if you choose to kill, you’re no longer a Paramour. You’re not one of us. Not in your heart. But once you’re put in a position where you have that choice and you choose not to kill, you’ll know what it means to be one of us.”
“Alright, I get what you’re saying. You can’t kill the woman you love, sure. But what if someone else, what if one of your comrades kills the woman for you? Because you can’t do it yourself, but you know, you know without a shred out of doubt that the bitch needs to die. Like, put down. For good!”
He started chuckling.
I threw up my hands. “You get what I’m saying, right? When does it end? How does it end?”
“The same way it always ends.” He told me.
“Well!? Let’s hear it!”
“I can’t tell you, son. You stick around long enough, you’ll find out for yourself.”
Anyways…Marcus Angel was also there. I couldn’t believe it. When I came to Hollow Rock he was still in a coma due to his extensive injuries and to be honest, his situation didn’t look good. He was shot multiple times. He had broken ribs and a fractured skull. He was on life support, costing the organization $5,000 a day but they had no intention of giving up on him. It was endearing, their level of compassion. Of course I wouldn’t find out until later how much everyone was depending on him to regain consciousness.
It wasn’t just military training that I learned over the course of three years. The Paramours were all about refinement, the stuff of gentlemen. The education, the in-depth history taught to me was more than I ever knew existed. I learned six different languages and took acting classes to both suppress my emotions and convey the right ones to elicit any response I wanted. The Paramours focused on stealth, intelligence, and tactics of subterfuge. Perception was everything and like a chess master, I was conditioned to think five moves ahead.
After three years of training, the Paramours started taking me on missions in the field. At first, it was just to observe and shadow other experienced members. My non-descript Asian appearance was extremely helpful. It didn’t matter what country I was in, there was something about me that whispered, “nothing special” or “harmless foreigner.”
Then came the first mission where I had a more pertinent role. It was in the summer of 2018. The leading Paramour was a revolutionary named Arsen Masol. My unit was posing as documentary filmmakers and I was the cameraman. Arsen’s mission was to provide the authorities with proof that deputies within the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) were being blackmailed and coerced to stay in the European Union.
What does this have to do with the Paramours? I had no idea. And honestly, I didn’t need to know. It was Arsen’s mission. He had his reasons and we were there to support him. I never doubted for a second that when the time came, my newfound comrades would assist me in my personal mission as well.
That’s the thing about us Paramours…we’re intensely loyal. When you’re in hostile lands or investigating in countries where things like due process and evidence are laughed at like bar jokes, everyone’s afraid. The fear of death or imprisonment was inevitable. But we weren’t alone. Our comrades were with us. They had our backs.
We’ve been shot at. We’ve been wounded. We’ve been caught. We’ve been killed. But no one has ever revealed our existence to the outside world. Even the Society didn’t know about us. The Paramours who were declared dead to the world could never leave Hollow Rock. That included men like Marcus Angel. Should he ever reappear, he’d jeopardize us all.
After five years of running with the Paramours, it was my turn to step up to the plate. It was a difficult decision that I knew would change my life forever. Once I crossed the threshold, there was no coming back. From here on out, I’d have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. The Society wouldn’t stop until I was killed. That was the risk I was willing to take to find my mother.
In the aftermath of the Tristan and Isolde tragedy…
The Knights with No Lords: Epilogue – A Ray of Hope
By Rock Kitaro
Date – December 30, 2018
The day Isolde died marked the beginning of a turbulent period of warfare and violence. King Lot broke his pact with the Roman Emperor and declared autonomy for Kingdom of Lothian and Orkney. Vortigern began invading south into territories protected by King Mark of Cornwall. Even without the Lion of Dumnonia, High King Vortigern soon discovered that Cornwall was still force to be reckoned with.
Gawain and Morgan Le Fay would go on to defend Tintagel from every incursion thrown at their doorsteps. No matter how many legions came, no matter how many monsters or magical devices stormed with the threat of impending disaster, Gawain and Morgan stood in defiance. They were unstoppable. Their love and dependence on each other grew as they did in age and maturity.
At night, they’d have each other in secret. During the day, she’d assist him on the battlefield. More frightening than a fire-breathing dragon was the sight of Morgan and Gawain mounted side by side on their fuming horses under Tintagel’s black and gold banners.
Agravain was always in the vanguard, ready and eager to sink his teeth in. The shrewd, Gaheris always had his bow and wore an unbreakable visor to protect his beautiful face. Constantine was a captain and became the youngest Lord Chamberlain in Tintagel history, honoring his late father. No other kingdom in Britannia had a roster of warriors so capable, so dominant, so fierce and relentless in their pursuit to protect their world.
Pellinore, who was already famous in his own right, would go on and become more famous by taking up a post on a popular thoroughfare. He’d challenged kings and knights to duels and win every single one of them. Of course, there were some casualties along the way. He ended up making more enemies who were loyal to the fallen, adapting the moniker of “Fisher King”. The name “Pellinore” became synonymous with “manslaughter”. He was terrible, really.
The fortifications of Tintagel Castle were rebuilt and reinforced. King Mark became cold and hardened in Tristan’s absence. Some say the legendary Tristan went and joined an order of priests. Some say he became a mercenary for Saracens in the holy land. One thing was certain. Tristan would return. Everyone knew it. They wouldn’t say it, but they knew.
Gawain’s reputation for leadership, valor, and prowess on the battlefield spread far and wide. Despite his youth, he succeeded the role of prince and became one of King Mark’s most trusted generals. With Gaheris and Agravain by his side, Gawain never lost a battle or failed in his mission. However, with that success came the loss of something else. His compassion.
By the time he turned twenty-one, Gawain was ruthless in his lack of hesitation. There was no mercy on the battlefield. Wherever his brothers went, Gawain would throw himself in the midst of combat. He’d lose himself in it. After four years of nothing but intense combat, Gawain began to thirst it to the point where all he thought about was destroying his enemies. He’d fantasize about it. He couldn’t wait.
Morgana would blossom into a mesmerizing beauty that surpassed even her sisters. By twenty-one, she was taller. Her confidence was supreme and unshakeable. Men of all walks bowed down and shrank under her dark penetrating gaze.
She continued her tutelage with Niviane at Lake Avalon. Her potential seemed endless. Avalon was home to the world’s most gifted magicians and everyone knew Morgan would be the most powerful of them all. She could do everything her instructors could do and she performed them with better knowledge and understanding. Her spells lasted longer and her fire burned hotter than steel furnaces.
Her unbridled arrogance and ambition was matched only by her affection for Gawain. Anyone she saw as a threat needed to die. Queen Iseult sent wave after wave of mercenaries to murder Gawain. Morgan crucified them all. Anyone she suspected of aiding the enemy was tortured and chained without question. Gawain was thought to be the only person who could control her violence. It was only in Gawain’s company that Morgan exercised some degree of restraint.
Their love…it was powerful. The fear of losing each other drove them mad. It was a hypnotic spell by which they were locked on each other for what seemed would be forever.
For four long tumultuous years, this was the way of life. The days were dark. Death was beyond every hill, every forest, every field, and every bastion. Farmers were afraid to till the fields. Merchants became marauders. Protectors became plunderers. Treaties couldn’t be trusted. Warlords were always encroaching, and the mass of migrants seeking sanctuary in Tintagel only put more of a strain on King Mark.
Just when all hope seemed lost, just when there seemed to be no end to all the bloodshed and despair, a ray of light began to spread throughout the land. A young man, pure of heart, pulled a prophetic sword from its stone. Rumor has it, Merlin is with him. They say the young man is the rightful heir of to Pendragon’s throne, the only one who could possibly unite the clans and bring peace and stability to all Britannia. They say his name is Arthur.
Repressed memories of a murder leads to a lifelong obsession. Elliot Chan was just a toddler when it all went down, but now that he’s all grown up, he’s searching for the missing pieces. He’s searching for his mother, the woman in the green cocktail dress.
Elliot Chan – The Woman in the Green Cocktail Dress By Rock Kitaro
“When I count to ten, I want you to open your eyes. Tell me what you see. Elliot, open your eyes. Tell me what you see.”
“It’s dark. Like nighttime. There’s a light to my left. TV’s on. Everything’s grainy with blurred lines like the Zepruder film but I see the semblance of an American flag. I’m sitting low to the floor. I don’t like this.”
“It’s okay, Elliot. It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. This is why we’re here. Confront this. You’re not alone.”
I was sitting back with my eyes close but my mind open. Palms were sweaty. I didn’t want to see it but she was right. It would never end if I didn’t go through with it.
“Tell me what you see,” she prodded.
“I see a fat man sitting in a lazy boy. Right in front of me. In a white tee shirt, black pants, and a large belly. He’s bleeding. He’s bleeding out. He’s twitching. The handle of a knife is sticking out of his chest and I’m just sitting there watching. What is this? Who is he?”
“I’m not doing anything! I’m just sitting there. It’s the same as before! Nothing’s changed.”
“Keep watching!” She urged.
Even with eyes close, tears came through.
“Wait…” I said, almost in a gasp of relief. “Someone just walked by. Long calves in a green dress. High heels glistening from the TV light. I smell her, her scent, her perfume as she just walked by. Dude, she is stunning. That dress, looks like she just came back from a cocktail party or something.
“She’s walking towards the man on the love seat. She’s standing there. The man, he’s struggling to look up at her. I can hear him. He’s wheezing. I don’t know what he’s saying. Oh! She just grabbed the knife! She’s shoving it deeper into his chest. Oh my god! What the hell is this! He tumbled back! She literally just shoved the knife so hard that he fell out of the chair. She’s screaming. Stabbing him over and over again! Dude, she’s stabbing the hell out of him! I can’t do this!”
“This is messed up!”
“You’ve come so far, Elliot! See it through. You’re the only one who can!”
“There’s nothing… She stopped. She’s getting up, standing over the man’s body. Damn…There’s blood everywhere. It’s pooling around her heels. She’s walking my way. I see the knife. It’s drenched. I can’t make out her face. The TV light, it’s not enough. I’m looking up at her. Long dark hair. Her hand’s clenching the knife. It’s completely drenched as if she just dipped into a can of paint.”
“Don’t be afraid.”
I couldn’t tell if it was Dr. Wilkerson or the woman in the green dress who just told me that.
“Go on, Elliot.”
“She drops the knife. It hits the hard surface floor. She’s walking away. I turn to watch her go but I can’t see her anymore. She entered darkness. I just hear the clacking heels fading in the distance.”
“And the knife?” Dr. Wilkerson asked.
“I don’t pick it up. I don’t do anything. I just sit there. Like a dumbass.”
Finally, I opened my eyes to the white popcorn ceiling. Dr. Wilkerson’s nodding, seemingly proud of my accomplishment. Odd. I didn’t feel accomplished. I didn’t feel fulfilled and I for damn sure didn’t feel satisfied.
“How do you feel?” She asked.
“Not good, doc. Not good at all.”
“Before we entertain the possibility that this actually happened, is there any chance you saw this before? On TV or in a movie?”
“Ma’am, I saw Scarface and Goodfellas when I was six. This doesn’t even compare.”
“Where are you going? You have thirty minutes left in the session.”
“Doc, I really appreciate everything you’ve done. Really, today was truly a breakthrough. I’ll follow up next week. I promise.”
I was halfway out the door when she tugged me by the sleeve and said with caring, compassionate eyes, “You really do need to talk about what you saw.”
“Ma’am, I just did.”
This all began because of the reoccurring nightmares that decided to hit not long after I enrolled into film school. I understood the neighborhood of Chelsea tended to have that affect on impressionable artists but this was different. New York was supposed to be the place where I could shed off the past and begin anew. But no matter where I went. The unanswered questions lingered like a chronic illness, like a sore throat. There’s no vaccination for what I had.
I was walking past the eclectic boutiques of hipster vibes when I felt the vibration in my pocket. It was Marvin, my father, giving me a call.
“Hey, how’d it go?” He asked.
I heaved a little sigh before changing directions on a course for Washington Square. It’s a park in the Village known for its ripoff of the Arc de Triumph, but ideal for self-reflection amongst the shaded trees, the exquisite monuments and a lovely central fountain. Twas still early in the day, so I didn’t expect it to be noisy or packed.
“Dad…I have to ask you something and I think it’s about time.”
He’s groaned. I got the feeling he knew exactly where this conversation was headed.
“Dad…who are my real parents?”
After a long pause, he said, “Elliot, I think its time you come home.”
Is God Really Hearing My Prayers? By Rock Kitaro Date – March 8, 2019
Every once in a while, I fall into brief bouts of depression, short spells that last two or three days. It’s usually triggered whenever circumstances force me to slow down and I have no choice, or rather it gradually becomes apparent that I’m missing out on a lot.
What most people do for “fun”…isn’t fun for me. I can’t help but see how different I am from my peers…and all of it makes me sad and lonely.
Like I said…this doesn’t happen often. But as long as I live in a society, I believe its human nature to compare yourself to others every once in a while. It can’t be helped.
During a recent conversation with my mother, a strong believer of Christ, she asked me if I trusted in God with my whole heart.
Without hesitation, I said yes. 100%. Understandably, she had some reason to doubt me. In the Gospels, I recall Jesus mentioning a number of times how… “Happy is the man who trusts in Him…”
And of course, if I’m not happy it does beg the question if am I really trusting in God? It led me to an interesting thought in which I may have surprised myself more than I surprised my mother. I asked her:
“Was Jesus happy? While he was here on earth, was he happy in the general sense? Sure the Bible mentions that there were times when he was happy. But also times when he was indignant. Or what about Jeremiah? Or Isaiah? Or Elijah? Or the Twelve Apostles or the Apostle Paul? Were these happy individuals? Happy to be doing God’s will, sure. But other than that…”
This requires deep thought and for the topic of this essay, I don’t want to dwell too much on answering that. Because, as humans, I believe everyone runs the gauntlet of emotions in which we experience happiness, sadness, triumph, victory and defeat. But overall, in the big picture, it is food for thought to consider whether men of God who sought to serve him and do what was good in his eye, were happy…living on this earth, amongst human societies.
And the reason why these thoughts prevail…As a man who’s read the Bible in its entirety, cover to cover, I believe it’s incumbent upon me to serve as a good example to others. God is my salvation, my rock, my hope. But if I was a non-believer, or someone who was on the fence about wanting to learn the true character of God, and they saw me looking down and depressed on a chronic level…it doesn’t exactly make for good advertisement.
Meaning, why would someone want to read the Bible in its entirety and strive to put God first in their lives…if they’re witnessing the complete abysmal state of someone else who’s doing that? Thus, I feel responsible. I have to fight back that which is bringing me down and remember God’s grace. But I need his help. I can’t do it alone. And so I pray…
I pray everyday when I leave my home for the strength, patience, and wisdom to deal with whatever may come. I pray when I’m faced with a challenge. I pray before I leave work, thanking him for getting me through it. I pray before I hit the boxing gym, asking that he help keep my body intact. And when I come home, after a hard day’s work and near depleted from working out…I sit in the same spot on my couch and bow my head, truly reflecting on the day, what I’ve done, how far I’ve come and where I want to be.
I beg his forgiveness for I know I have sinned. I know my weakness, my propensity to desire badness towards those who have crossed me. I know my weakness to sometimes lust after women who are no good for me. So I pray and beg him to continue to be with me. I pray that he blesses me with the strength to continue on, to hold my head up and keep the faith. I pray that his will be done. And I pray that I forever continue to strive and seek first the kingdom of heaven.
If I pray so fervently on a daily basis and claim to trust God 100%…how could I ever face bouts of depression? Doesn’t sound right, does it?
And last week, I watched a documentary about the evangelist, Billy Graham. This was an awesome man who lived to be 99 years old. And I confess, I wept as I watched him. From what I learned, he truly did so much to spread the Gospel to hundreds of millions throughout the world. And he seemed happy doing it. He appeared to have a loving wife, loyal children, and productive grandchildren. This was a man of God, in my opinion, who truly put God first in his life and from what I saw, he seemed happy.
But still. It was a documentary. It’s kind of like Facebook, or reunions where people share the highlight of their lives…while keeping the lowlights, the dark chapters tucked in the closet. I think that’s the case with me. It’s not like I’m miserable. I laugh and I smile a lot. But I confess…it’s tough.
Thus, my mother hit me with a question that left me dumbstruck for about five seconds. She asked… “Do you think God is hearing your prayers?”
As she continued to follow up with skepticism about whether or not I’m doing what’s good in God’s eyes, I took a moment to really evaluate the question. “Do I think God is hearing my prayers?”
And it made me smile, the conclusion I reached. I told her:
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s ever been a time in which I ever doubted God was listening to my prayer. I know he is. It’s part of that absolute trust and faith that I have in him.”
And I meant it. In my heart, I await God’s judgment. If I were to walk out of my home tomorrow and saw Jesus Christ returning on the clouds of glory to come and rid wickedness from this earth as it’s foretold…I wouldn’t dread it. I wouldn’t fear or run or scream or try to hide. I’ve dreamt of it. I know without a shred of doubt that I’d smile with open arms. Whether God thinks I’m deserving of life or death, punishment or grace, I submit to his judgment. Honestly, I can’t wait. Sometimes when I pray for the day, I weep thinking of how glorious the day would be.
I know that makes me sound somewhat like a fanatic…but if you knew the history I know about this world, what has happened, what is still going on all across the globe…I truly believe that you too would welcome the return of Jesus Christ with the utmost relief, like a flowing oasis in the middle of a scorching desert.
But of course…as a true intellectual, my belief and theories are just that without the pillars of evidence to support my conclusion. So…I went to the source, keeping in mind the question, “Does God hear my prayers?”
In Lamentations 3:8 it says “though i cry out for help, God shuts out my prayer.” This was Jeremiah speaking his wailings in the time of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. For those who don’t know…circa 600BC, Jerusalem was a very immoral place. For generations, God’s own people turned their backs on him by worshiping false gods, indulging in immorality and vice, and even sacrificed their children in the service of these false Gods. Time and time again, God sent prophets to warn them, to warn their kings to do the right thing. But Judah did not listen.
Thus…God passed judgment on his own people. And even still, in his infinite grace, God used Jeremiah to warn the people of the sentence he passed. Jeremiah told the kings and the people that a hammer, an army from the north would sweep through and destroy them. God chose King Nebuchadnezzar and the army of Babylon as the instrument of his wrath to discipline his people. Not to wipe them out completely. But to punish them severely for their iniquities.
In the book of Jeremiah, God repeatedly tells Jeremiah not to pray for the unrepentant ones of Judah because of their perpetual sin. And in Lamentations, he confirms that at the very least…if God does not hear it, he does indeed “shut out the prayer”.
So… If God doesn’t answer your prayer, is that an indication that he doesn’t hear your prayer? Or that he has “shut out your prayers”?
I don’t believe that’s the case. We have to understand that everything God does, he doesn’t have to do it at all. He owes us nothing. But he gives us according to his grace, love, and generosity. God answers prayers according to his will and at the time of his choosing. In Jeremiah there were instances where he prayed on behalf of the people and it took ten days for God to answer. In the case of Joseph who was falsely accused of sexual misconduct (sound familiar?) and imprisoned, even after he correctly interpreted the dreams by God’s grace, it would take him another three years before he was released.
Then there’s the example of Job. Job is probably the ultimate example of how bad things happen in which we have no explanation and will probably never learn the reasons why. Job never knew why God allowed Satan to strip him of his possessions and destroy his loved ones. And Job’s friends did their utmost with convincing arguments to say Job was guilty of all the afflictions. He wasn’t. If was due to a conversation God had with Satan, and really by God’s good grace and wisdom that he chose Job to have this happen to, knowing Job would not curse him and instead maintained faith as a shining example for billions who would go through trials and tribulations in the future.
That’s why I have faith. I ask God for his blessing every day as well as the strength and patience to wait. If I feel like I’ve been waiting an eternity, I have to remind myself that it just might be that God in his infinite wisdom is preparing me mentally and physically with experiences to handle that which I have asked for…like preparing me to be a man who would be a loving husband and devoted father.
Or it could be that he’s preparing me for another mission that I’m not currently ready to embark on. It may also well be that God is using me as an example for others, to test me, refine me, and punish me should I dare slip up and turn my back on his Word.
No matter what, we must never falter in doing our part by continuing to pray and have faith. Trust in him and if you lose focus or start to doubt, remember the examples he provided for us in the Bible. You think you have it worse than Job? Or Jonah? Or Jeremiah? Trust in Jehovah, our heavenly father. Always.
In conclusion, does God hear your prayers? Yes. Does he answer or deliver on all of them? That’s up to Him. But for your part, it should be irrelevant in your faith and trust in Him. And striving to put God first in your life certainly couldn’t hurt your chances.
And feel free to check out my essay of Job and Human Suffering. I think it might help improve one’s perspective. Thanks for reading!