Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Mandate to Live

In Korea like many other parts of the world, we are seeing a devaluation of the preciousness and  dignity of life. The rate of suicides in Korea is just one of the manifestations of this devaluation. In the Kyeongyang magazine  a professor emeritus introduces us to Ham Seok-heon(1901-1989) the Gandhi of Korea, a member of the Quaker movement  and a national cultural figure,  who suffered much for his convictions.

Ham's life pursuit can be summarized by three words: life, truth and peace.  By life he meant God's order to live, all life having this order from on high to burn with life's energy. We are given to participate in the workings of the universe, not solely with a cerebral understanding of how it works but with an understanding that is supported by the living of this reality.

Truth comes when we confront life with all that it brings. The many ordeals of daily living are ways to knowledge and wisdom, and understanding heaven's will

He was not happy with importing words from other languages. 5000 years of Korean history have given us, he insisted, enough words to understand life. If we cannot put it into our words, we should not be concerned. Life is always evolving, and it will have its fullness in heaven. God is participating in this imperfect world we live in. The universe is the root of life, and life is its flower, he said; they work  together for life. In history the will of God will be discovered.

Truth can't help but be related with life. Where can we find truth? For Ham, life is truth. The writer asks how does Ham come to this conclusion? Life at its beginning, he said, always has an order, a mandate. For a Korean this is an easily understood notion. The word life in Korean is made up of two  syllables. The first is the ideogram for life: a sprout from the earth, and the second ideogram signifies an order, a mandate. We have an order from above to live. It's not a choice to live or not to live, but an absolute order from God to live. We do not find truth in all the facets of life. The truth of life is found by going in the direction pointed out to us by God. For Ham, realizing this truth is the journey we are on.

Truth is already within us, according to Ham. Our hearts are in search of the truth; not only for those who search for the good but for those who are doing evil in one form or another. They too are searching for the good but are not finding it because they are looking in the wrong places and in the wrong way. We should look for the truth, says Ham, by living uprightly, with genuineness. The way to truth is found by cultivating our minds in faith, and by being born again.

Striving for truth will bring us more fullness of life. Though being finite creatures and never perfectly achieving this goal in this life, we must not cease from striving, recall the words of Jesus, "In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).

The conditions for the good life are based on our willingness to communicate, to share with others our openness, strength, passion, vitality, information, heart, mind, spirit; when they don't work together life comes to a standstill, preventing the flowering of life, and obstructing the real meaning  of our evolution, with the usual consequences of finding satisfaction in material possessions, in money and in pleasure. In the present moral atmosphere, Ham's words, according to the professor, are like talking to the wind, words empty of meaning for many.

"Life," says Ham, in a brief summation of his thought, "is something that we cannot exchange for the whole universe. Our hearts are what determine whether it's one day or a thousand years that we have lived. We are not on the earth to live for a hundred or a thousand years. But to live for eternity."

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