Saturday, August 6, 2011

Owner's Manuel for Life,

Mr. Kim Hong-sin, a popular novelist, politician, lecturer, and professor, is the first Korean author to sell more than a million books. Interviewed by a journalist of the Catholic Times this past week, he prefaced his remarks by saying, "I have in my lifetime killed many trees. I have used much paper in my writing...reflecting on this fact, I try to use every inch of paper when I write." Writers, he says, are all faced with this same problem, a problem that affects him deeply. 

During his eight years as a congressman, he was seen as a man of honesty and integrity and received high marks from his constituents. He was a strong voice for democracy and human rights during the 1980s. After retiring  from politics and for three years living like a recluse, he started writing again and now has about 300 books published. He also returned as a popular professor to the college classroom.

After many years of receiving questions such as, Why live? How are we to live? Why does love change?, he went in search of the answers. And found some. "The reason people are not happy, he says, is because they confuse happiness with pleasure. We are always comparing ourselves with  others, which usually results in making us feel inferior. However, we know what is necessary to be happy and should bring this knowledge to mind more often, but we have a tendency to forget.

He makes clear that this is also true of himself. As an example, he mentions how over 10,000 books in the cellar were spoiled with rainwater, and how he could not deal with the anger he felt at what had happened. He finally succeeded in putting himself at peace but the anger did not disappear. What changed was his ability to deal with the disaster. Such problems will always occur, he says, until the time he goes to meet God.

When people see him, they say he has all that is necessary for happiness but he disagrees, saying he continues to fret and get irritated, driven by a desire to do and accomplish more. When feeling driven this way, he likes to remind himself of advice given to him by his teacher: "Look at the mouse, he doesn't know the bait is poison and eats the bait; we know our baits are poison and yet still eat them...When a glass is full of hot liquid, why not put it down instead of grasping it even tighter with both hands." "Remembering this advice from my teacher," he said, "from that moment on, I gave up smoking, which I had been doing for 37 years and 9 months."             

He became a writer, he explains, because as a child he used to get from the French priest of the parish comic books he had received from France, which he would then translate into Korean for the children to read. It was from that time on that he became familiar with  books.  Even now, when he has a weighty problem on his mind and no desire to read, he will pick up a comic book.

His latest book, Owner's Manuel for Life, is advice on how to live well, using his own life experiences. He wants each young person to know how important he or she is and to acknowledge their dignity. And he cries out to the  older generation to feel the pain in the hearts of the young and to try to make this world a better place to live in. The young, when they make mistakes and fail, have the special privilege to be forgiven; they should never give up but face bravely the challenges of life. The have the duty, he says, to never give up on hope.

"The pine needle, when it  is scared, gives off," he says, "a fragrant scent.   We are the same. Those who have not been scared will not give off a fragrance. Don't be afraid of  hate, anger, frustration, pain. They should simply be thrown off. True, it is not easily done.  However, they have to be discarded.  Why?  We only have one life to live. We  can rid ourselves of the waste of the body, why can't we  rid ourselves of the waste of the heart and the head? We work at doing this with prayer, meditation and thoughtful reading.  Getting rid of things we don't want, we have to change our way of thinking to make room for the things we do want. Moreover, it's all free."

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