Monday, August 21, 2017

Importance of Dialogue

Satirically addressing our political situation four  syllables are combined which mean: when I do it it's romance when others do it it's immoral. 

After nine years we have a change of government. The progressive government when it does something the old government did we often hear this sly dig at the ruling government. A journalist writing in the Kyeongyang magazine begins his article on dialogue with these words.

In the appointment of the new cabinet members, the opposition lists all the mistakes and faults committed  and asks for their names to be withdrawn. Since the government is now in power they do their best to defend each one and usually get their way.

'When I do it it's OK, when you do it is wrong' has now entered the world of big business, organizations and the individual. The phrase has entered daily parlance.  Each one uses their own yard stick to judge.  Our egoistical human nature shows itself clearly. We have a tendency, he says, to use our own measurements to judge and act to benefit ourselves. If this was not true competition would find no place in society.

To live in society we have to realize that others like myself have this self love. Socrates tells us to know ourselves. We need to objectively examine ourselves. We have to go beyond  this self-love, we are not the center of the world and need to accept our place in society.

In June there was a forum that considered the position of religion in the work of justice and reconciliation. Two of the speakers concluded with the same emphasis on dialogue which surprised many.

A Buddhist monk mentioned that the meaning of the word justice is not the same for all. The word used in North Korea does not have the same meaning as in the South. In the 21st century with  peace and conflict attempts are made to have a win/win approach to dialogue. Buddha did not refuse to dialogue even with the devil. It is the way to perform miracles. He mentioned 9 conditions and the first is to see the other as a companion.

A priest who was the head of diocesan peace and justice committee expressed himself somewhat differently. The dignity of the person and the common good is central to justice, and dialogue is important and went on to explain. He gives the example of  man who lost everything and prays to God for help in winning the lottery: no luck this week and the following week. He goes into the church and with anger in his voice asks God to give him the winning ticket in the lottery.

As he was leaving the church he hears a voice from behind.  "Hey, before you pray to win the lottery for heaven's sake buy a ticket." Prayer is not a monologue. He feels the relationship is very much like the above person asking God for help without doing what is necessary.

Pope Francis in Laudatio Si reminds us we are all living in a common house. The president of the United States to protect the industry and workers of his country decided to leave the Paris Climate Agreement.

Our life is a series of choices. My choice will  influence my neighbor. The harder it is to find the correct answer the more we need to listen to the opinions of others, discuss and look for a reasonable solution. We invite God with our prayer, make the right judgement an act accordingly.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Working for a United Society

How do we bring different segments in society together? In the Kyeongyang magazine a priest writes about the desire for unity within the country. With the new government in place this desire grows and is fostered with the easy going style and concern for the common person shown by the present government.

What is  necessary for this uniting of the citizens? All the previous governments desired and worked for this unity among the citizens. Progressives, conservatives, and  regionalism would not allow the change to take place. At times the government even helped to ferment the conflict.

"The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate. Thus she cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends. Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the "subjectivity' of society through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility” (Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching # 406).

One of the natural tasks of religion is to work for the unity of society. Every society has a mix of unity and conflict. Without the removal of force, control, discrimination and the like from society we will not rid ourselves of conflict but the need continues. We  work towards the goal of unity within a conflicted society.

What should be the first thing to do? The need to understand the reason for the conflict and upheaval. It may be economics, poverty, the inequality in society. These  are all good examples. One daily newspaper in a recent survey of a thousand men and women 35.9 percent thought it was the rich, poor divide.

Secondly the political forces can be a probable cause for unrest. When the government subjugates by force a large segment of society you will get resistance which was what we saw in Korea recently with the candle light revolt of many of the citizens.

Thirdly we have the cultural and ideologically  resistance. The young people revolting against the conservative authority of the older generation. They are in search of freedom, and look upon the stress from the  consumer society negatively.

The president quickly after inauguration made clear  he wanted a just nation, a  united country, regulations and common sense that is understood by all the people... a president of all the people even those who did not vote for him.

There is a need to rid the country of all corrupt practices and work for a fair distribution of the material goods. A need to work for open communication, dialogue and negotiation. The problem of slow development, income and polarization within society, the lack of unemployment of the young are all government concerns. A desire for fair competition, guarantees for opportunities and the improvement of the living conditions of the citizens are all dreams of a more united society.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Taking Time Out To Examine Ourselves

A religious sister who works in a suicide prevention center, writes in the Catholic Times asking the readers  to take time out and look inside. She begins with a program she watched on TV where an entertainer was treated for a panic attack. A rather large number of entertainers she tells us suffer from these panic attacks.

She wasn't familiar with this problem but now is quite in the know. There are many people that are not able to control their anger and indignation which cause the death or injury of another. Is our own psyche and those of others healthy?

In a survey made in 2011 one of four persons have at least one period with mental problems in their life time. However, because  of societies prejudice and lack of understanding instead of receiving help many try to escape with drink, drugs, games, gambling, and the like. These methods don't only give birth to other problems but makes the initial problem more pronounced.

The government last year working to better mental health is strengthening the capabilities of these combine forces in society. Little has changed, she says,  in the way we look on mental disabilities. Which requires that we look at ourselves and start making some changes in our thinking.

Wanting to be healthy we work at exercising, and take helpful medicines but we don't realize in actual fact what is necessary. We  are so occupied, excuse ourselves with a lack of time, or absorbed with material things. We don't take time to examine our emotions, pass  ourselves off as happy persons, in  control of anger and irritability until it's let loose in strange places and with persons with no connection to the out of control emotions. Have we not all experienced such events and failed to uncover the reasons for the outbursts?

When by force we repress our emotions they become more overwhelming and will affect us when we are least prepared and will prepare us for mental difficulties in the future. We should not only be conscious of our joys and happiness but also indignation, sadness, anger and the like.  There is no bad emotion, its what we do with the emotions that is important.

When we realized that we are often angry, distressed and acknowledge the situation we are beginning to sublimate the situation and we are in control and the owner of the emotion. This is not easily done but we have to spend time making the effort to examine our inner life which will make our life with others and ourselves less hectic. She hopes the article will help  readers do that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Learning From Bhutan

This year is the 30th year of diplomatic relations with the country of Bhutan, Koreans visiting Bhutan in recent years has increased greatly. This year starting in June for 3 months, Koreans are receiving a 50 percent discount on events in Bhutan. What would ordinarily cost 250 dollars daily has been reduced to 125 dollars. A university professor writing in the Catholic Peace Weekly tells the readers that on the plane from Bangkok to Bhutan most of travelers were Korean.

He was visiting the country on invitation to attend a one day workshop on Sustainable Development Goals that were presented by the United Nations and the the ways to achieve them in society.

Bhutan is about one fifth the size of Korea with a population of a little over 750,000 and a GDP that is 166 in the list of nations. It's a Buddhist nation and in many ways just opposite to Korea. In 1970 at the start of restoration under a dictatorship, Korea and Bhutan were similar in the GDP with about 200-300 dollars. Bhutan from that time began its Gross National Happiness goal. Today Bhutan has not quite 3000 dollar GNP while Korea comes close to 30,000 dollar GNP.

However, Korea has one of the highest suicide rates and one of the lowest birthrates in the world and is not able to rid itself of one of the lowest happiness i and quality of life indexes. In Bhutan 9 our of 10 citizens consider themselves happy, one of the highest in the world, Why do we have this  great discrepancy?

Bhutan's philosophy of government is determined by how happy the citizens are. In 2008 the country began their periodical 5 year plan in achieving happiness with a committee devoted to that cause. A happiness policy, which is based on:  * achieving a fair development of the economy * protecting the environment for the citizens, and animals * progress in developing traditional values and systems* to include the citizens in the running of the government and listen to their requests, be efficient and transparent in the running of government and to be conscious of the above four pillars of our society.

The aim is  for the well being of the citizens, health, leisure, education, cultural diversity, good government, community building, ecology and renewal, which will be viewed with other indexes to measure the progress of the efforts.

Recently many countries are going to Bhutan to learn about their policies. Thailand has stared a center with an index for happiness. He wonders looking at Bhutan what have we lost in searching for material prosperity. We can use Bhutan as a mirror to look at ourselves.

He concludes the article with the hope of our new president who is an admirer of the Bhutan experiment. Korea with an excessive search for prosperity at the expense of happiness is able to work together with Bhutan to help the developing  countries to acknowledge the  good and bad qualities of each and to help others achieve sensible progress.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

No place to Go

"Is it right to commit mentally sick to sanatoriums? Or rather to respects their rights and allow them to live with us?"  No one can give an easy answer. With these questions, a health worker begins his article in the Catholic Times.

Recently a murder by a person under treatment for schizophrenia brought to the fore a movement to put those who are in treatment for mental illness in sanatoriums. Out of the 70 thousand in mental hospitals 10 thousand are conjectured to be released within the year. Recently the mental health law was changed which makes the commitment to a hospital difficult and release easy. Citizens do not have a consensus on how to deal with the mentally sick and the government remains confused. Christians have the example of Jesus to help us. He would not appreciate them becoming sacrificial lambs and would want to help them live human lives.

Differently than what the majority believe the mentally sick are not for the most part dangerous. In a report for the year, 2011 by the supreme prosecutor's office in the crimes that were perpetrated during that year only 10 percent were attributed to the mentally handicapped. Those who have been released and take their medicines are good neighbors. The problem is that many have no place to go. No friends with whom to talk, work opportunities are not available and find it difficult knowing what to do with their time.They are faced with the bias in society and the danger of giving up on their treatment and some return to drinking and drugs.

Some are still in hospitals because it's the cheapest place to keep them and the most efficient. The money set aside for the mentally sick is about 45 dollars which is about 1/6th of the budget in England and the United States. In Korea each person is responsible for about 80 persons which is two to three times more than the developed countries.

The efforts to build the infrastructure in society is missing, the efforts to make the entrance into mental hospitals more difficult will make opportunities for treatment less.

Many who have been discharged continue as out-patients.Those who have been addicted to drink have stopped drinking.Those with serious problems of schizophrenia or manic-depression, the acute manifestations of the disease are under control.

Those released from hospitals don't always find happiness. Societies' coldness and prejudices make it difficult. We need to prepare ourselves to accept those who are mentally compromised. We need to prepare to accept them with joy and need programs to help them to return to society. This over all will be a saving to  society. Our understanding of the mentally disturbed needs to be changed and resources need to be allotted to the work.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Helping Others to be Happy

In a diocesan bulletin, a university professor gives us a human interest story with a good moral lesson. A young woman who planned to marry and with all preparations made, received out of the blue notice from her expected husband that the wedding was off.

At the time when she was to be the happiest, she received word of the worst kind, leaving her with a feeling of despair. The problems that came to minds were not a few and the biggest was the wedding party that she was to have for the guests.

The money for the banquet had been prepaid over 30 thousand dollars and there was no refund. What she decided to do was to invite all the homeless in the area to a banquet.  She made a list of 170 of the homeless and sent all of them a personal invitation, prepared them suits and dresses and the means to attend the banquet.

It was the first time in their lives that many of them ever received a personal invitation to a party and attended with great warmth in their heart. Dressed not in a wedding dress but in the formal dress, the no longer bride was there to greet all the guests and made the day memorable for all.

The writer mentions this is what  happened recently in the United States. What was done was a difficult step for the young woman. He wonders how many in such a situation would have thought of such an alternative plan.

When sad making others happy is a way of healing one's own sadness.... This was the young woman's lesson to all of us. In a community, if we tried to make others happy the joy of the efforts would reflect on the life of the community.

"We can boast about our suffering. These sufferings bring patience, as we know, and patience brings perseverance and perseverance brings hope, and this hope is a not deceptive because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us" Rm. 5:3.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Life Is Short and Art is Long

Relax, travel, healing... to modern society these are sweet magic words. Those who are running ahead aimlessly and are tired in both body and mind, understand. 

Korea has for some time been interested in economic progress and has achieved remarkable results from the efforts. We can be proud of the results but in the process, became infected with a materialist mentality: money can do everything. A member of the Catholic Artist's Committee gives us her impression in a Diocesan bulletin on the direction we are going.

She mentions that for Korea to become truly an advanced country in this transitional period it's  important to work to advance our cultural assets besides pursuing economic progress. Because of the Japanese occupation and division of the country, Korea has not developed fully its spiritual and cultural resources.

For a long period of time seeing the advances of western culture, Korea was overcome with a great feeling of inferiority and a yearning to imitate, we did this without reservation. Imitation is the start to every beginning. However, it's time for Korea to begin as a developed country in the 21st century to recover our proper Korean culture and aesthetic history. This is the work of the artistic community but the government and public organization need to give us the wings to go ahead with the search.

France, known as a cultural giant has a department of culture, she would like Korea to go in that direction. As we transition as a developing country she is sure the department would do much in achieving cultural growth.

Art is the product of a precious spiritual culture that acts as a mirror of the times, through deep self-reflection and insight into society. Art is not rigid and heavy but the way of discovering what beauty is, and for those in modern society searching for meaning in  higher values and quality of life. It's a thrilling medium that brings joy to people.

"Art is long, life is short" reminds us of the great power of art to give vitality to life. It's time to abandon the dichotomous thinking of black and white, left and right, good and bad, high and low,  and to search for a middle course. In the East, the middle road is normal.

While in college she wondered if the way of art was a proper goal. Did God see this as a beautiful goal?  Was it just a personal selfish desire? She wondered about this for some time but since it was a strong desire she felt it came from God. She is now certain of this and screams out: the beauty of art witnesses to God's love, a beautiful tool which introduces us to the fragrance of God's love.