Epics appeared late in the maturation of culture, allowing us to appreciate the progressive unfolding of humanity in narrative, poetry, and myths, which gradually developed into the literature of the country.
in the Peace Weekly a professor, in the Culture of Life Research
Institute, reflects on epics and what they can tell us about humanity,
about the meaning of life, our relationship with nature and, ultimately,
about human desires. Reading the classics, the professor says, opens us
to another way of seeing our world, and coming to a new understanding
of the conditions and meaning of life. The tragedies of life make us
think deeply of their meaning. We ask ourselves, what are our tragedies
and how can we best face them.
legend of Tangun, for example, familiar to all Koreans, tells us about a
particular image of humanity and its character by recounting the tale
of Hwanin (God of Heaven) and his love for the earth and humanity.
Hwanung, the son of Hwanin, wanted to live on the earth to provide
humans with great happiness. When he learned that in a cave lived a bear
and a tiger praying to become human, Hwanung gave them garlic and some
mug wort. They were to eat this food and stay out of the sunlight for
100 days. The tiger gave up but the bear remained and was transformed
into a woman. The woman prayed to be blessed with a child. Moved by her
prayer Hwanug took her for his wife, and she gave birth to a handsome
son named Tangun--the beginning of the Korean people.
This legend tells us much about how we
see ourselves. The temptation to get out in the sunlight was too great
for the tiger and he failed the test of endurance. It is when we are
suffering the greatest ordeal that we show our humanity. Truth, even when not acknowledged, makes itself known.
life here on earth is temporary, but our life narrative does not
disappear. With the passage of time this narrative continually changes,
but remaining ever new, and the value of life and its mystery becoming
clearer. We are the writers of this epic. We are the ones searching for
this exalted life: the epic of our one, beautiful, and sacred life.