Monday, June 24, 2013

The One Korean Nation

Has there ever been a family that has not experienced pain? Writing on the opinion page of the Catholic Times, the writer recalls his own family difficulties experienced some 20 years ago. Its aftermath is still influencing the family, he said, and he looks back with gratitude to God for the strength to overcome the problems. He wonders about those who were brought up in luxury and done all they wanted--whether that kind of life is more insipid than we generally suppose.  Without the trials and failures of life, he wonders, if it's possible to experience the joys and happiness that life offers?

The Korean family of one nation, he reminds us, has now been separated for the last 60 years with violence and misery. One-tenth of the population were killed, property was destroyed, and the animosity still continues with the poor suffering the most. Is there any reason to hope that the future will be any different? he asks.  Each side stresses their dignity and their claims, and yet the feeling of helplessness and frustration continues to grow. In the last 10 years there have been glimmers of hope, as North and South have come together to dialogue. Will the day of peace and happiness ever come? is a question the people of this separated family are still wondering.

The writer introduces us to Prof. Lyubomirsky, who has studied happiness for most of her professional life, dividing it into three constituents: our genes, our life circumstances, and our intentional activities. The first, our genetic makeup, we receive from our parents, accounting for 50 percent of our happiness: our positive outlook, humorous disposition and  health. 10 percent would be dependent on our life circumstances: our age, gender, education, our place in society, income, family and children, our physical attractiveness. 40 percent would be determined by our intentional activities, our willed actions. According to this thinking--since we cannot control our genetic makeup, and the circumstances in our life are thought to have little to do with our happiness--it is our intentional activity that is going to have the greatest influence on our happiness.

Acknowledging the present North-South relationship between the separated factions of our Korean family, and realizing we can't change the history of the past 60 years, we can, however, make intentional changes in our thinking and the way we deal with each other.

In the Old Testament book of Tobit, the angel Raphael said to Tobit: "Take courage! God has healing in store for you; so take courage!" The writer prefers to see the two-nation Korea, as a blindness that has to be healed and as demons that  have to be expelled. The lack of trust has to be changed to trust, hate to forgiveness, anger to embracing, fighting to dialogue. And trust that God's grace will be there for the change.

It is only a widow, it is said, who can understand a widow. And only those who have experienced pain and conflict, and have been at the bottom, can give hope to those who live without hope. The bitter experience we have undergone as a divided nation, when healed, will go a long way to passing along, in God's providence, what has been learned to other struggling nations of the world.

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