Saturday, March 29, 2014

Greatest Value in Life

What is our greatest value in life? A research professor, a member of the Bishops Subcommittee for Women's Issues, explores the question in her recent column in the Catholic Times. She  asked a small group of people, who were mostly in their forties, for their answers:  family, work, improving their relationships with others, preparing for old age, and concern for their personal possessions were some of the responses.Social issues were of minor interest, some estimating that among the general public about 80 percent have no interest at all in these issues.

Most of us are busy making a living, she says, and have little leisure time to be concerned about  anything else. Especially at this time when much of the world is experiencing financial difficulties, many are anxious for the future. How are they to deal with these problems and keep the situation from getting worse? she asks. There is a mixture of egotism and a desire not to be left behind. Consequently they have no time to think of who they are and what their value in life is.

She quotes the psychologist  Dr. Rollo May, "Like in the times of the middle ages, during the black plague, the greatest harm today to our health is anxiety," and the reason for the anxiety, she says, is that other people are receiving recognition for what they have accomplished but for the majority of us it is missing. When we do not receive the recognition we think we deserve, problems begin to surface, we feel discarded and worry about being alone. And overcome by anxiety by not being able to fulfill our desires, we lose our sense of being and thoughts of suicide take over. 

From 1960-70, during the military control of the government, every five years there would be an economic development plan. During that time we had the Miracle of the Han ( the economic growth of Seoul  through which the Han River flows). All we needed to do, it was said, was "to do and it will be done."  We have been captivated by this "success story", the columnist reminds us. After the IMF this became even more pronounced. Those who were not able to benefit from this development considered themselves failures.

Some became despondent  and committed suicide. Others, looking for easy money, became addicted to gambling and the lottery, to shopping, to easy sex, and similar pursuits to escape the reality they were faced with. Money became the important value for many of them.

Now in the season of Lent, she wants to find out who she is and what is her highest value in life. Everybody she meets is busy, she says. But are we busy with no definite plan in mind, she wonders. Are we grasping the true character of what we are about? Do we have a healthy relationship with those around us?
We have to ask ourselves, she says, if the essential teaching of our religion is  the love of God and neighbor, or is it little more than a saying we find easy to say? She concludes the column with the words of Carl Jung, "Attempts to avoid  legitimate suffering lie at the root of all emotional illness."   She wonders if this is one of the problems, mostly unrecognized, that we are now facing in Korea.

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