Thursday, February 27, 2014

Experiencing What We Hear

"We are able to  hear only what exists in our own  thoughts."  A priest writing in the Bible & Life magazine gives us an example of how this reality became known to him.  From his pre-school days he often  heard about the Apricot Tower. His brother and sister had often gone to the location for picnics and  writing contests. While in elementary school he finally had the opportunity to go there with his classmates. However, he didn't see any apricots. Maybe, he thought, the Apricot Tower is a mountain full of apricots or a tower made from the wood of the  apricot tree or a mountain resembling an apricot tree. But no matter how hard he tried to find something that resembled an apricot, he could not.

He finally asked the teacher in charge of the outing where could he find the Apricot Tower.  The teacher very kindly pointed to a stone pillar and said: "That is the 'sa il ku' (4-19) Tower.  Even with the words of the teacher he continued to hear the Korean word for apricot: salgu.  He didn't have the courage to ask any further questions. The next day the class submitted their  papers on the day's excursion. The teacher wrote on the margin of his paper: "Not apricot but 'sa il ku' (4-19) Tower. The teacher's  words made no sense to him for he did not know what the 4-19 meant.

On April 19, 1960, a popular democratic student uprising against the Syngman Rhee dictatorship began the first reform movement after the Korean War. It is simply called "April 19".  In Korean, the  month of April is  called the 4th month, so "4-19" would signify the 19th day of April.  In spoken Korean one can hear the word for apricot, if the middle syllable is missing or not heard. This is what the writer was alluding to in his article.  As a child he did not have the necessary information that would  allow him to hear the proper meaning of the words spoken other than the meaning of the word that he did know, which was 'apricot'.

He compares this thinking with our talk about the rainbow. Koreans see 7 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. But other cultures and times have accepted other colors which he says depends on what  a person has been prepared to see by his learning.

In Mark 8:16 disciples are grumbling that they didn't bring the bread along. Jesus was telling them to guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod but all that the disciples heard was the word 'yeast,'  associating it with bread, and not understanding that Jesus was telling them to be on their guard against the influence of these two groups. The word 'yeast' reminded them of their lack of bread.  But he reprimanded them: "Do you still not see and comprehend?" Because their minds were so taken up with their own material desires and personal ambitions they were unable to hear what Jesus was saying.

In conclusion, he reminds us how the words we hear about love from Jesus may mean  little to us because we have little experience of the love that Jesus speaks about. Without this experience we will have difficulty understanding his words, but be disposed  to doubt, refuse or deny  what we hear. If we are to understand the words of love, we have to experience and learn about them in our own lives.

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