Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hearing, but not Caring to Understand

A 19-year-old only son left home on a motorcycle one night 25 years ago, and did not return that night as the mother expected. After waiting for her son all night, she had been told by a police officer next day that he died in an accident and that his face was beyond recognition. This tragedy, documented in a recent TV series, was the subject of an article in a priest bulletin.

The mother had to live with the memory of this tragedy for 25 years, until May of this year when her daughter received a call from the police station telling her that  Min-nam, the son they thought dead, was alive. The family had been offering the rites for the dead for the last 25 years, so it is not difficult to understand how the news was received.

The man who said he was the son had an accident and had been admitted to a hospital, where he had brain surgery. The doctor who performed the operation said that what he knew about the man and what the mother had said were identical.

After the accident this man, later confirmed to be Min-nam, spent ten months in the hospital.  Not being able to remember who he was, he was thought to be mentally defective and was admitted to a mental institution.

The man would often tell those who attended him his name, address and middle school from which he graduated, but no one  paid any attention to what he was saying. (This was before the fingerprinting of all citizens and a reason little was made of what Min-nam was saying.) The provincial office, with no fingerprints to certify what Min-nam was saying, also paid no attention to what they heard. It was a social worker who, on hearing the story, started checking and notified the family that he was alive. If it wasn't for the social worker, the writer has no doubt that there may well have been another 25 years of waiting for the family.  

"I will spend some  time looking into the case!" is the kind of response the writer feels is all too rare nowadays. Our busy lives do not allow most of us the time to look with sufficient attention into anything that doesn't seem immediately apparent to us.  Is unconcern for what is going on around us the reality we live in? he wonders.  This unconcern is what the writer worries may be happening to him. There are  many in our society, like Min-nam, he says, who live with others and are at the same time isolated from them. He hopes he will be freed enough from bias and indisposition to hear the cries of despair of those who need our concern..

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